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Learning from the best

Benjamin, a senior business analyst in our Kuala Lumpur office, shares an unorthodox experience he had with an unusual mentor.

When I was asked to tell a story about a mentorship experience at McKinsey, it was tough to pick, given the number of people who have offered their time and advice. I thought a less orthodox example would be most interesting. I was serving a client in Myanmar. The McKinsey leaders on my team trusted me to have one–on–one discussions with a very senior client, I’ll call M.

M had more than 40 years of experience leading transformations and sales in different organizations across multiple geographies. I was initially intimidated to present our proposals to him, given they were different from what he had done before. M challenged our recommendations and asked tough questions. He pointed out areas in which our storyline was not convincing enough and pushed me to be punchier with my main points. He took time to edit the messaging on the PowerPoint slides and walked me through the points he believed were important to highlight during larger group meetings. He half joked that since he spent a good number of years in sales (and I had not), he knew how important the delivery of the pitch was in convincing the organization to change. The meetings weren’t always smooth sailing; I remember feeling disappointed when a document I thought was good enough, was not up to his standard. Still, I felt so grateful for the opportunity to learn from such an experienced executive.

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During our steering committee and cross–department meetings I realized the reason for M’s behavior. The amount of push–back from the other members of the organization was immense and the questions were many. We knew our proposals were not always going to be popular, but we were convinced they were essential for the client company to survive in its increasingly competitive industry.

A year has passed since my time in Myanmar. I have not forgotten the lessons M taught me. They’ve had a large influence on my work and communication style. Such opportunities to learn from and interact with senior–tenured clients are a huge benefit of McKinsey.

you’re a first–year business student like I was a few years ago, and you don’t want to give up the huge learning and awesome people you’ve found in b–school, consider consulting at McKinsey. Several of my colleagues from offices across Asia Pacific and Greater China will come to the U.S. to meet with you during networking receptions in October. Check out the details here.

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